How to Develop Your Event Audience

Eight tips for increasing attendance and ensuring high engagement.

Photo Credit: borisblik for Adobe Stock

Does the thought of growing your event audience give you goosebumps or fill you with dread? Every group is unique, so developing the right strategy and tactics can take time. Fortunately, there are some proven steps in the process that can help give you a framework for where to begin and what to consider.

Establish a plan

To build your event audience, it's important to establish a plan. Start by reviewing your event offering and identifying your needs, goals and objectives. This will help you create a clear vision for your gathering and develop strategies for attracting the right attendees. By having a well-defined plan, you will be better equipped to make informed decisions about your event marketing, communication and outreach efforts.

Gather data and insights

Review existing marketing and audience targeting efforts to assess the effectiveness of those measures, and offer recommendations to supplement or supplant those processes for maximum return. As part of this effort, be sure to research your competitors and their target audience in order to identify gaps in the market and areas where you can differentiate your event. Use this information to refine your own target audience and develop effective marketing messages.

Define the audience

Once you've done your homework, a good place to start is by developing personas for your attendees. You'll need to identify the factors (e.g., age, occupation, location, education, interests, needs, culture and associations) that define your target audience and ancillary audiences for your event. By creating detailed profiles of your ideal attendee, including demographic information, interests, pain points and motivations, you can better tailor your marketing messages and strategies to effectively reach and engage them. Doing so will also help you to create more meaningful experiences for your attendees.

Set objectives

Identify audience development objectives that are achievable, measurable and scalable for future opportunities. For example, are you hoping to increase attendance 10 percent over the next year? Consider what you want to achieve and how you will accomplish it within a scalable framework. This will help you track your progress and adjust your approach as needed for future growth. 

Outline actions

Create a custom approach for reaching your target audience through available channels using organic and/or developed tools that stay within the time and budget constraints. By considering the audience's preferences and behaviors, you can select the most effective channels and create content that resonates with them. This will help you achieve your marketing goals while staying within your resource limitations.

Target the audience

Develop a framework that outlines the steps and timing needed to reach the target audience. Take time to evaluate the optimal channels to build brand recognition, pique interest and deliver the right messaging to the right audience at the right time. 

Engage with your audience

Use social media marketing and influencer partnerships to expand your reach and build credibility with your target audience. Engage with your audience through these channels and other communication methods to build relationships and foster loyalty.

Review and refine

Constantly review and measure current processes so that you can refine the development efforts and maximize your return. Track the effectiveness of your audience development efforts using metrics such as attendance, engagement and conversion rates. Use this data to fine tune your approach and improve your results for future events.

Warren Pickett is the cofounder of Event Foundry, an event marketing and communications agency. He has been in the media industry for more than 25 years, including two decades of event experience.